My initial inclination was to like the New Zealand writer Martin Edmond, Kim Hill’s guest on the “Playing Favourites” segment of her radio programme this morning – admittedly for no better reason than that the first song he chose to play was Walk Away Renee, by the Four Tops, one of my favourite Tamla Motown acts. But then Edmond told an anecdote about one of his experiences as a Sydney cab driver, and my view of him changed.
He had picked up two men at a pub in Bondi Junction and taken them a short distance to another pub. He then picked up another fare and took her to, I think, Elizabeth Bay. After she had left the cab he turned the interior light on and found $1000 in rolled-up notes on the front passenger seat, which he assumed one of the men from Bondi Junction had left behind. (Presumably his woman passenger sat in the back.)
So what did he do with this find? He took it home. He said he still has it. He told Kim Hill he thought the men were going to buy cocaine – a rationalisation for his decision to keep the money, perhaps – but offered no evidence for that theory.
My first reaction was, why did he not go back to the Bondi Junction pub to see whether he could find the men? He could have ascertained whether the money was theirs – “Is it possible you left something in my taxi?” – and if it was, he surely could have negotiated some sort of emolument for the time and trouble he took to return it. This possibility doesn’t seem to have occurred to him.
A woman listener subsequently emailed Kim Hill’s programme asking why Edmond didn’t take the money to the police. If no one claimed it, she said, it would eventually have been returned to him. At least an attempt would have been made to return it to its rightful owners.
Hill’s response to this suggestion was sneering and condescending, as if the emailer was a pathetically naïve goody-two-shoes. Edmond seemed to agree, noting that the New South Wales police were notoriously corrupt. Another self-serving rationalisation?
I found it interesting that Edmond blithely related this story without any hint that his conscience troubled him. Very telling. Equally telling was Hill’s response. She never hesitates to pounce on the peccadilloes of people she doesn’t approve of, but it doesn’t appear to have occurred to her to question Edmond’s honesty.
Bottom line: the money was not his. He has no right to it. Neither does he have any right to assume that the cash was somehow ill-gotten, and that therefore he had no obligation to return it. I’d be interested in what other people think.